Amazon-Future Hearing #2: Amazon Permitted to Seek Interim Relief

Amazon-Future-Reliance Dispute

Judges: N.V. Ramana CJI, A.S. Bopanna J, Hima Kohli J

A Bench composed of Chief Justice N.V. Ramana, and Justices A.S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, continued to hear the Amazon-Future-Reliance dispute today. After failed negotiations between the parties, the Bench directed Amazon to submit an application explaining the exact relief they seek in the matter. 

The present appeal is regarding the continuation of arbitration proceedings before the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. In December 2021, Future approached the Delhi High Court to stay the arbitration proceedings underway in Singapore against the sale of Future Group to Reliance. On the 5th of January, 2022, a two-judge Bench of the Delhi HC stayed the arbitration proceedings. They relied on CCI’s revocation of the agreement between Amazon and Future Coupons to conclude that the dispute arising from it was invalid. Amazon appealed against the decision in the SC.

In the previous hearing, the SC had granted 10 days for the parties to attempt an out of court settlement.

Senior Advocate Gopal Subramaniam appearing for Amazon lamented that the attempts at negotiations over the past two weeks have failed. He noted that after March 3rd 2022, when the Court gave time for an out of court settlement, Reliance continued to aggressively acquire shops run by Future Retail. He accused Future and Reliance of continuing to take action towards the sale of Future Retail to Reliance. 

He argued that Future has repeatedly sought the continuation of NCLT procedures that would review the sale between Future and Reliance, without disadvantage to Amazon in all the pending litigation. However, their actions have been inconsistent with the claim. Mr. Subramaniam argued that by taking over the shops, Reliance is in the process of making the litigation infructuous—meaning that Amazon would have nothing to fight for, if all the retail outlets are legally Reliance’s. 

Senior Advocate Mr. Harish Salve, appearing for Future Retail, argued that they had no hand in Reliance’s acquisition of the stores. He emphatically explained that Future was broke, with no money to pay for the rent and lease of the various stores across the country. He argued that the shops were not ‘surrendered’ to Reliance, contrary to Amazon’s accusation. Instead, the lease expired in some places and Future was unable to pay rent in others. He clearly distanced Future from Reliance’s acquisition of these stores, claiming that it was a decision made solely by Reliance, with no involvement by Future Retail. 

Mr. Subramaniam responded that irrespective of the reasons that facilitated Reliance’s acquisition of the shops, the fact remains that Future’s assets have now been shifted to Reliance. Referring to the various orders passed by the SC, he exclaimed that despite winning the various orders, Amazon seems to have ‘won nothing at all’. 

Ramana CJI asked Amazon to file an application listing the exact reliefs they seek. Mr. Subramaniam stated that they want the arbitration proceedings at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre to continue. The matter will be heard tomorrow (March 16th).